Vaccines are the safest way to protect yourself and those you love from serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Know the risk

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations from birth through adulthood to provide a lifetime of protection against preventable diseases, yet many adults and children are not vaccinated as recommended, leaving them vulnerable to illness, long-term suffering, and in some cases, even death.

"Protection provided by childhood vaccinations may wear off and booster vaccinations may be necessary."

Newborns, individuals with weak immune systems, and older adults are at higher risk for infections and complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is important to keep your children up to date on vaccines for their own health and to prevent them from spreading infections to others. By following the CDC-recommended immunization schedule and getting your children vaccinated on time, you can help protect your children and those around them against 15 vaccine-preventable diseases, including influenza (flu).

Beyond adolescence

Teens need vaccines, too. In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, adolescents also need to be vaccinated to protect them against human papillomavirus (HPV), pertussis (Tdap vaccine) and meningococcal disease. CDC recommends these vaccines for boys and girls at 11-12 years of age as well as a meningococcal booster at 16 years of age.

The need for vaccination doesn't end in the teenage years. Protection provided by childhood vaccinations may wear off and booster vaccinations may be necessary. Certain health conditions or international travel may also put you at risk for diseases that vaccines can prevent. Vaccines are especially important during pregnancy, as they provide protection for both the mother and the newborn baby until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.

Adults 60 years of age and older and individuals with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, kidney failure or lung or heart disease should also make sure they are up to date with vaccinations because they are at higher risk of infections and their complications. Like eating right, exercising, and getting regular screenings for diseases, vaccines can play a vital role in keeping you healthy throughout your life.